Monday, December 10, 2012

At The Market

I love the market in Moshi - it's colorful and noisy and always an adventure. I practice my broken Swahili and bartering (a skill my dad taught me well!) and enjoy the sights and sounds (oh and the smells!) of the market. People are friendly and helpful too.

Some veggies are cheap and easy to find - green beans are 500 shillings for nearly a kilo (about 35 cents in USD), carrots are 500 shillings for about 5 of them, and the ever-present cabbage comes in a giant head for 1000 shillings (70 cents). I was delighted to find avocados are common and only about 500 shillings. Fruit can be a bit more - a bunch of 10 bananas for 2000 shillings ($1.35), for example. But then there are the fruits and vegetables that are scarce in Moshi and we pay dearly for those. Cauliflower or broccoli is easily 5000 shillings (over $3) for a small head, apples are hard to find and are 900 shillings each. 

Inside the covered part of the market

All the grains to choose from!

So many fresh fruit/veggies for cheap!

It's pineapple season, these carts are everywhere!
Busy alleyway

Thursday, December 6, 2012


At school every day, the kids get a break at 10:30. The kitchen staff is full of sweet ladies who cook a delicious rotation of Tanzanian lunches. Without fail, at 10:30, they take a break from lunch prep to make hot porridge for the kids (and teachers!) to snack on. Tanzanian porridge is called uji ("oo-jee") and it is one of my favorites. It's made of a mixture of maize, peanuts, soybeans, rice, and millet, all ground into flours and then cooked with water or milk. The consistency is like American Cream of Wheat, and with a little sugar, it is a tasty and filling snack! Most Tanzanians eat this for breakfast from infancy to old age.  I look forward to uji mtamu (sweet uji) every day!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Determination

We were invited to attend Thanksgiving potluck at one of the homes here in Moshi.  The Western community is tight and supportive of each other, and the get-togethers are always fun. I was given the task to bring green bean casserole and yams to this event, and I accepted the challenge! Green beans are not hard to get here - we made a trip to the outdoor market in town and got a huge bag (3 kg) of fresh green beans for 3000 shillings, about $2. But the yams...they were a different story. I was determined that our Thanksgiving feast would have candied yams, it's just the perfect food. I decided on yams with a brown sugar crumble topping despite the fact that there's no brown sugar here either. I was going to make it work!
The market stall with the 'yams'
Clean purple yams ready to bake
So we trekked to the market again, on a mission to find yams. I had heard the yams here weren't the yams I would be used to. They only have taro root here, or a purple-skinned yam with white flesh.  I went for the latter, and at the market, an old Tanzanian woman assured me I had got the right thing. She even broke it open, took a bite herself, then handed it to me to try. I just smiled and handed it to Melissa to taste. She politely took a tiny bite.  We bartered for a minute, and I ended up buying 20 yams for 9000 shillings (yikes! that's $6!).

And it was a Thanksgiving miracle - at another shop here, I found a tiny bag of brown sugar American-style for 4500 TSH ($3). I snatched it up. I roasted the sweet potatoes and cut them open hopefully. The taste was very sweet, but the texture was just like a regular potato - starchy and a bit crumbly. The yams that I'm used to at home are a bit creamier and smoother - so I was a little bit worried.  I think they are delicacies here though.  Our house mama Fridah came into the kitchen, and Holly asked her in Swahili "Oh do you like sweet potatoes?" and Fridah eagerly nodded, took a hot one off the pan and bit into it immediately. We were all taken aback! Anyway, we mashed them all up, added the sugar, eggs, milk, and it looked...terrible. Nothing was incorporated very well and it was much soupier than I expected.  These were supposed to be yams for nearly 30 people - so I was getting a tad worried. Nevertheless, we poured it in, put a brown sugar topping on top, and baked it. 

I am happy to report that it turned out absolutely fine - a little dense I think due to the texture of the potatoes, but the taste was great!  Such relief as I brought them over to the potluck and enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast!
The final product - yum!!
All mashed and mixed - skepticism setting in!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pedicure in Moshi?

Here in Moshi, there are not salons for nails or hair as there are everywhere in the U.S. Those kinds of luxuries are unheard of here – the people are barely scraping by and their poverty doesn’t allow for frivolous spending (unless it’s on a cell phone, people will go hungry here but leave money to buy a cell phone and minutes for it - go figure).  But the dirt and dust here are beyond insane -- I cannot go 5 feet before I'm covered in dust.  At night sometimes, I'll put on socks to protect me from mosquitoes, and the bottom of those poor socks will be brown instantly.  And that's with a hard-working housegirl who mops daily. You get used to the dust here, it's ubiquitous and everyone deals with it, so we can't gripe too much. But we've been delighted to meet Tracy, a woman who is not afraid to tackle dirty feet and clean them up.  So every once in a while, for $7 USD, we get to have clean feet and painted toenails, and it is heavenly. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ah The Wildlife

Just a normal lunch where a giant stork is stalking us, hungry for a snack.  I've started getting used to the random wildlife around these parts!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Roadtrip to the Movies

On a whim last week, I googled “movie theater in Arusha,” having heard there might be a place to see semi-new movies.  First of all, I was surprised that my search even turned up a website, but I was completely amazed to see Skyfall listed on the showtimes for this weekend.  And when I say ‘amazed,’ I mean there was such high-pitched squealing that the dogs started barking. I thought Tanzania was at least 3-4 months behind in the film realm, and to see otherwise was a gift STRAIGHT from Heaven. I’m being completely serious. This girl loves her movies.

Naturally, about nine of us Westerners planned a roadtrip to Arusha on Saturday to see the film. As I thought about it, I honestly wouldn’t have cared if we were seeing Piranha 3DD (the other, more dreadful option at the theater), I was so curious what our experience would be like.

We got to the theater a little early before the movie for a quick lunch.  The courtyard of the cinemas has about 6 different restaurants and as soon as we picked a table, a waiter from each restaurant pushed menus in our face, trying to make sure theirs was on top of the stack. Then they hovered around as we read, pointing their finger at menu items and telling us what we wanted to eat, in their opinions. It was a little crazy, but I’m getting used to a little craziness when it comes to this country.
So many menus to choose from...
We ate and got our tickets – 8000 Tanzanian Shillings each – about $5.50. That’s expensive for locals, seeing as some people pay 30,000 TSH a month for rent. But for us, that’s a bargain, and we were happy to pay it.

Before we got to the theater, we were joking about how the theater could just be a big screen tv and wooden chairs.  Or a tv with a couple couches – we really didn’t know what to expect. Fortunately for us, we found a much better place than we anticipated. The theater itself was small of course, but still the room had 5 rows of 10 regular theater-type seats.  The screen wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t tiny either, and the room had good sound to it. As the movie started, I whispered to Vicki, “Is this still Africa?!?” It felt so different from anyplace else here.

My proof that we saw the movie! Opening credits.
And of course to top it all off – Skyfall was a great film, my favorite of the recent James Bond reboot. That opening sequence was awesome, hooked us all in immediately.  And I love Judi Dench as M, she got so much screen time this film, and the audience got to see her character develop more.  And my final thought on this – Daniel Craig is a great Bond, but as soon as Q (Ben Whishaw) came on screen, all of Bond’s persona had nothing on the cute techie nerd. More Q, less Bond!! =)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

More Sights Around Moshi

Materuni / Mnambe Waterfall
I am realizing with these posts that I am spoiled with all the things I've been able to see recently! It seems like every weekend we are doing something interesting and seeing great things. Ryan and Stacy are so good to us teachers, they try to give us a good experience being here.  And so far, so good!  I feel like I've seen a lot of the surrounding areas, and it's only been 2 months! If it's been a hard week of teaching, it helps to have something to look forward to on Saturday or Sunday. And while I enjoy teaching, seeing new sights is one of my favorite activities! So I am blessed.

On Sunday we drove up the hills of Moshi about half an hour, through many Chagga villages (a local tribe here) and into a remote area. The roads were dirt and steep and it was a bumpy ride to get to our final destination. It is always fun to wave to the locals and see their curious looks as we go by. Kids are my favorite, when we wave to them, a smile lights up their face, they get so excited, waving back while jumping up and down, or running after our car.  This time the locals were a little unusual -- a lot of little pubs line the road in the Chagga area, it's well known that they Chagga people have a habit of drinking. They brew beer out of millet they grow, or even bananas. It's apparently nasty (haven't tried it! no thanks!) but strong, and has the desired effect of getting them drunk. As we went up the hill, it was only about 3pm but we passed plenty of staggering Chaggas, or pubs with overly friendly drunk Chaggas. The way back home was much worse, I think 75% of the people we saw on the way home were drunk, even the elderly ones making their way home. Sad to think of a whole people group in bondage to alcoholism, and how that cycle will go on and on unless people take a stand against it.

 After quite a bit of intense driving (think the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland but crazier), we reached a hill where we parked, and began our hike to the Materuni waterfall. The locals found this interesting, and our group was followed by about 10 young men and children, who I guess didn't have anything better to do with their afternoon! They did tell us that in Chagga, the waterfall is called Mnambe, meaning 'firstborn,' because 200 years ago or so, the Chagga used to throw their firstborn child off the top of the waterfall, as a human sacrifice to their gods. Yikes...

On that happy note, we hiked to the falls, which took about 30 minutes, and the air was so much cooler than in Moshi, that a 30 minute hike was actually really pleasant and easy. We hiked along the ridge of a valley, from which the view was just incredible. We could see Moshi in the distance, and lots of green hills and little villages in between.  Kilimanjaro was also looming off to the right. It was a great hike, and we passed all kinds of little homes and huts that made me marvel at the fact that people live here, well off the beaten path, and walk such a distance every day to get to 'town'. 

Pre-icy dive
Once at the waterfalls, many people jumped right in, only to find the water so icy it took your breath away! The waterfall was beautiful and inviting, but the cold water made us only want to take a quick dip, before scurrying out to warm up in the sun. But before I knew it, my friends were swimming under the waterfall to climb up on some rocks underneath it. I couldn't resist either, and dove in to swim. When I say icy, I really do mean icy, and it was even difficult for me to take a deep breath while I was in that water. But it was rather refreshing and I enjoyed the experience! It cooled me off for the uphill hike back, which was of course more challenging than the way there.
I made it under the waterfall!
This is me congratulating another
girl on surviving the swim. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Moshi's Paradise - The Hot Springs

The first glimpse of the springs

Cool rope swing into the pool
Our recent trip to the Hot Springs right outside Moshi was one of my personal highlights thus far. For such a beautiful place, the Hot Springs are hidden away and unadvertised in Moshi.  No signs line the dirt roads there, you pass through a few little villages, take some crazy turns, pass some Maasai herding cattle and goats, offroad a bit and suddenly you find yourself at a true oasis. Moshi gets increasingly hot as the year comes to an end, and the blistering heat can really sap your energy to do anything. So in the midst of an endless dusty area, the appearance of the cool and shady Springs surprised me.

Now when I say Hot Springs, it doesn't actually mean they were hot. No picture of a jacuzzi should be forming in your mind. Most of the water that flows through Moshi comes from the snow melt or glaciers on top of Mt Kilimanjaro. So swimming in that is beyond cold--even on the hottest day, you would only enjoy a few minutes in that water. The Hot Springs, on the other hand, flow from Kili through some heated underground thermal areas, and come out to be cold and refreshing but not icy.  The water is a perfect temperature for swimming. Just make sure that swimming is done during the daytime only, apparently at night, it is home to many hungry crocodiles.

Look at that water!! Crystal clear!
We swam for hours, enjoying the clear water and shade. The water is clear enough to see all the fish swimming around the bottom -- some of the fish delight in nibbling the dead skin off your feet, which terrified me at first, but I adjusted to the ticklish feeling after a bit. Some parts of the pool have underwater caves that you can peek into when you're swimming around.  But the most fun came from the rope swing into the water, and the overhanging trees which some of our group enjoyed monkeying around and jumping from into the water.  We swam and relaxed until our skin shriveled - had a lunch picnic and then swam some more.  
Lovely ladies enjoying the water!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Day in Arusha

Common sight on these roads
A few weekends ago, we took a trip to Arusha, the next 'big city' over from Moshi. Arusha has about 1.5 million people, whereas Moshi only has about 150,000.  Arusha has lots of amenities that Moshi doesn't have, so it's a popular place for the area. On our drive from Moshi, we passed through lots of dry, sparsely populated area, and then started an small ascent up to Arusha, a much cooler and greener area. Ryan told us that about 10 years ago, Moshi used to be as temperate and lush as Arusha, with lots of rain and greenery. Unfortunately, a lot of deforestation happened, and too many trees were destroyed to sustain the water cycle there. Now, Moshi has a much hotter and drier climate, and much of the greenery has disappeared. Tanzania has passed a law imposing a heavy fine for those who cut trees in Moshi, because of the damage that has been done to the climate. It puts locals in a tough position - they are desperately poor and need to cut the wood to cook their meager meals. But the area will be in danger of desertification if they lose more trees.

Anyway, back to our trip to Arusha - we got to the city and got stuck in traffic, I felt at home, haha! It took us about 30 minutes to get a few miles, so it was reminiscent of Southern California.

Once in the city center, we stopped for lunch, passing both the McDonald's and Starbucks copycat stores.
"Stiggbucks Coffee" - hmm sounds familiar...
McMoody's Restaurant
 After a great Italian lunch (what a treat!), we headed to the Cultural Heritage Museum in Arusha. This is a new museum that displays centuries of Tanzanian history, as well as new artists' works. Tons of great sculptures, paintings, photographs were displayed all over. 

Wooden soldier men from the 19th cent
Carved chairs
The only difference between this place and an American museum is that ALL of the works, historical or not, are for sale. That was a little surprising!

Iron elephant
A neat weaving

Great day seeing a new place, wandering around a (air-conditioned) museum, and seeing incredible art by very talented people!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Foothills of Kilimanjaro

Outside of Moshi, up in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, there is a little village that has a nice hotel hidden in the greenery. Being a little higher than Moshi, it's also cooler and greener, and it enjoys the streams that runs down from Kili.

The hotel serves a nice tea, and we spent one Saturday afternoon relaxing in the cool air and shade of their lawn. Their tea is more like Indian chai than proper British tea, and it is so tasty with a bit of sugar (ok, or a lot) and milk.

After our tea, we walked down to the stream.  There were tons of local kids there, washing clothes, swimming, playing. They ran up to us, and then got shy and just watched us from a few feet away. I charmed a couple into a picture. I love the looks of wonder when they see their themselves on my camera. Half the time they have this look of like, "is that ME?!?" and giggle with embarrassment.

The 5 teachers: Me, Becky, Holly, Melissa and Rebekah

We had a great visit there, many more to come as we uninitiated get a bigger taste of the upcoming heat in Moshi. We will be begging for the foothills!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Geography With My Class

This year, the curriculum for my 5th and 6th grade class is called Exploring Countries and Cultures (from My Father's World curriculum). That means my class gets to embark on a world tour of many different countries and peoples. This should be especially fun because I have an international class.  So far, the students have really enjoyed studying maps and getting their 'passports' ready for the educational journey. Every two weeks, we will be starting a different country.  So what better way to prepare for our geography adventure than by making a cake of the world?? The kids did all the decorating - and then acted like Godzilla as they ate parts of continents ("AAAAaahh I just ate my friends in North America - YUMMMMM!").

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tanzanian Morning

Although the sun doesn’t come up until 6:30am, the day starts long before that for most people here.  I hear the roosters crowing around 4 or 5, and then the other animals nearby start, and it isn’t long before I hear the voices of people in the road, walking to their jobs or to school or to the market. About a block from our house is an orphanage – I hear those children too, starting their chores outside, giggling and talking.  This time of year, the air is cool in the mornings, and it’s pleasant to be outside.  It’s even “cold” to locals – our guard at our house wears a full-length parka sometimes, when it’s the low 60s. =) 

The view from my bed!

My first sight when I wake up is the inside of my mosquito net, and thankfully I have only forgotten once that it surrounds me and I sat up and got tangled.  A window right next to my bed looks out over our yard and vegetable garden, and in the distance is Mount Kilimanjaro.  That is a sight I don’t think I’ll ever tire of. It’s majestic and the lighting on it is always a bit different. 

I'm not a morning person, but I am loving all the mornings here! 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Visiting a Village Church

Last Sunday we went to the church of one of the families at school. My student Naomi and her family live outside of Moshi in a small village, and it takes her, her sister and her father over an hour to get into Moshi to come to our school.  We teachers were invited to visit the church with Steve, the school administrator and Ryan, our fearless missionary leader.  We drove out to join the service, which was well off the beaten path and held in an unfinished house.  The brick outer walls were the only complete part of the structure – the makeshift roof was a tarp, and the wooden benches inside were on dusty, uneven ground. But as we walked into the church, all the details of the building faded and we heard their joyful worship.  About 40 people were singing in Swahili, their acapella voices  probably audible to the whole village around them. They were dancing and clapping, and their worship was contagious. We sang for probably an hour, trying to pick up the Swahili phrases and sing along.  

The service went on for much longer after that - Steve gave the sermon, and then recruited us teachers to come up to the front and minister to anyone who needed prayer or healing, etc.  It felt like nearly another hour of that, praying for all those who came up.  They were encouraged by it, and it was really interesting, since we didn't have enough translators, people came up asking for prayer, and we had no idea what they were saying.  But the Holy Spirit led us, and He knew what they needed.  =)  It was a blessing to be a part of their lives, even for a brief moment like that.

After the service, we stayed and played with the kids - they don't mind the language barrier so much and they had such fun having their picture taken!  I want to print some copies to bring to them next time we visit! 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Camping Trip!

On the way to Chala
To celebrate our successful first week of school, the whole group of us (teachers, missionaries and their families) drove out to Lake Chala – a campground on the border of Tanzania and Kenya. It’s a remote and beautiful place, and the lake appears totally out of nowhere – it’s in an old volcano crater, so it’s isolated, no water flowing to it or from it, just underground springs that feed it.

Our campsite!
It felt like any other camping trip for only about an hour – about 5 minutes from the entrance to Lake Chala campground, Stacy (one of the missionaries) stopped the car and said, “everyone be quiet – there are elephants right outside” and sure enough, I looked and just off the road was a herd of elephants – probably about a dozen of them stomping through the bush parallel to us. We quietly opened the car door and leaned out to take pictures – we couldn’t attract too much attention or they might feel threatened and charge.  I was totally taken off guard – in a whisper shout I was like, “HOLY CRAP, ELEPHANTS!!!!!” and tried to get as many pictures as I could. And from that point on, I just kept saying to myself, “I’m camping. IN. AFRICA.”  
My housemate/fellow teacher Holly and me

Camping was cheap too! About $2 per person, to camp overnight – you can even rent a tent to be all set up for you when you arrive for an extra charge of about $10.  It was great. The area is just beautiful – grassy woodlands, a clear blue lake and the most amazing night sky, complete with more stars than I’ve ever seen and the milky way.

The best part of the weekend was our hike down to the lake. Since it is in a crater, they’ve created stairs that zigzag down the crater wall, and you hike straight down for about 45 minutes. About 5 minutes into the hike, we came to a point that overlooks the bush area opposite the lake. About 100 yards away there was a watering hole in the middle of a huge expanse of dry bush land. The watering hole is quite the popular location – when we arrived there were hundreds of baboons running around the edge of the hole, having a morning dip. A little ways away were dozens of elephants on their way to the hole. It was surreal to see! One of the kids, a typical teenager, looked at it for a minute and said uninterestedly, “So…can we go now?” I laughed – I could have stayed for hours and watched the scene at the watering hole.

Baboons at the watering hole
Elephants on their way to the hole
Lake Chala
All in all, a wonderful trip to end a good week of school!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Typical Tanzanian Lunch

I am happy to announce that I love African food – this is a picture of a typical meal that we eat for lunch every day – it’s usually beans/rice, or lentils/rice or beans with a thick kind of tortilla called chapati (“cha-PAH-tee”). It’s simple and delicious. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

First Day of School!

The first day of school was Monday September 10, and the weekend before it, I was feeling SO nervous. I’ve never taught a 5th/6th grade classroom before (or any classroom, for that matter) and certainly never one in another country. I planned the first week of school minute-by-minute, all weekend long, so that I’d be ready to be the best teacher ever.  Even with the overkill planning, I woke up early on Monday, with my first day of school outfit ready, to double check my day’s schedule. I got to school and to my classroom, and prayed a quick prayer that God would calm my nerves and make this day a great one. The kids started arriving – (I only have five students to start) and the day began.  I have two of the missionaries’ kids and the rest are Tanzanian.  One of my students speaks no English at all, poor thing. She is a trooper though, and works very hard to compensate for the language barrier.  The kids were shy the first day as we got to know each other, and learn what they like, what they don’t like. I am blessed to have a very creative class, which fits right in with my gifts, and so I had them decorate their journals the first day and they loved it. The school’s philosophy is to let the students be creative and self-led in many ways.  So we are trying to avoid having them sit in their desks all day, and do as many activities as possible to keep them engaged.
My classroom before

I had to think on my feet quite a bit that first day. The students had lots of questions about the upcoming year, and I didn’t always have an answer for them. Even with my crazy planning, some activities took much less time than I thought they would.  A small class goes a lot quicker, I think! We would end something, I’d look at my watch and go “Oh! Well we still have more time…ummm…it’s free reading time now!” We ended up playing a lot more games than I planned but I think it endeared me to them, they all had a good time. 
My classroom after!
Another after shot - my classroom wall
Before I knew it, it was lunch, and then their afternoon every day is full of elective classes and fun activities. They go to Drama, Art, Swahili or ESL, Music, etc and so my time with them was pretty much done.  I know any teacher reading this is jealous of that, and I am not complaining at all!!  My first day ended and I was so relieved to think, “Hey that wasn’t so bad, was it?!?” The rest of the week was much easier (though still stressful at points!) after I got over the anxiety of that first day.